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You Are What You Aspire To Be

Let’s face it many of us are failing to live up to our potential. Life just gets in the way. We routinely make choices that just eat up the clock yet provide little value and, in fact, are in direct conflict with what they would like to accomplish. Things like going out for a big lunch and skipping the gym or letting dust accumulate on the book you bought but never finished. BUT it doesn’t have to be that way!

“Fulfilling your potential is a journey not a destination. You complete goals and replace them with new ones  –always striving to improve!”

Perhaps what sets apart those that enjoy more success in realizing more of their potential is they have the vision, clarity and determination to make better choices. They often pass on immediate gratification in pursuit of greater rewards. Just thinking about it without action will create frustration not progress. BUT it doesn’t have to be that way! Ask yourself the question.

“I’m inspired to do what, be what?”

Making your new goals “must do priorities” is a key. Make a plan to introduce sustainable change initiatives that you are comfortable you can transition into a new improved lifestyle. Skipping a meal versus eating healthy is an example.

Following are some suggestions and considerations to help you along.

1.    Turning Ambition into Accomplishment begins with having clarity around what success will look like. Having a clear vision of the outcome is the beacon of light needed to ensure you remain on course during your journey. What does your success look like –describe it.

2.    Having a realistic written plan as to how you will accomplish your vision is essential. Using smart goals is wise. I recommend starting at the end and reverse engineering the initiatives making sure to put first things first. A common cause of plan breakdown is committing to do too much too soon.  Your plan should incorporate the time required for the other goals / commitments as well. An hour reading each day is far more productive than four hours every two weeks or so.

3.    Maintain a “Let’s make it happen”  positive mindset / attitude. Knowing why your goal is important to you and remaining confident that the outcome is achievable is essential to building the strength to turn away from urges / distractions not supportive of you goals. Feel like you slipping call a friend or go for a walk.

4.    Making the pursuit of your goal part of your everyday life, not something you hope you’ll find the motivation and time for is a must. Whether it’s hitting the gym or reading a book, make it a priority and a must do thing. Personally I drag myself to the gym then love it.

5.    Don’t make your goals a secret. Tell those around you of your ambitions and ask for their support and assistance. They can help you with encouragement and help hold you accountable to your goal.

6.    Get the help you need. Going it alone will make you feel alone and that is the beginning of becoming overwhelmed and disillusioned. If you need a skill or support get it in place when and where you need it. Don’t let self pride keep you from asking and getting the help required.

7.    Measure and celebrate your progress. Taking time to refresh and evaluate both the progress made and the journey ahead keeps your plan active and real. Every plan will need refinement and adjustments, that’s just reality.

8.    Know when to say when. For athletes it’s stopping before incurring a serious strain or injury, and for others it’s ensuring the tank is never fully drained. Overdoing it just about guarantees a setback. Be realistic and keep aware to avoid sabotaging your initiative.

9.    It’s about the journey as well. Sacrifice is all good and well but misery will consume you. Be realistic on the price you’re willing to pay to reach your goal. Depriving yourself of the enjoyment of everyday life can make the realization of the goal an empty and distant victory.

10. Arrive at your destination with few regrets. Maintaining your values and adhering to your beliefs will ensure your integrity and self worth remains intact.

Being inspired is a wonderful thing. Harnessing and growing your abilities in pursuit of your vision is living your life with purpose and intent. It’s both exciting and rewarding and certainly well worth the price of giving up the very stuff that is holding your back.

Relationships – A Failure to Connect is a Failure to Lead

 

I say relationships because effective communication is only one side of the coin. Connection is the other.

As leaders one of the pitfalls is that you can speak to someone and they will take action. It can be totally one sided. You say go do this and they do. You can deliver a speech and watch the audience disengage or you can pitch a great idea and receiving low support or buy in. It simply takes more than your words to be a true leader of change.

Speaking at someone is not the same as speaking with someone

Leadership is most effective when the leader can inspire and motivated people to not only follow but internalize the goal and commit to the realization. It comes down to engaging with them to build a solid connection. Here are a few recommendations on building those connections.

  1. Listen to learn. Taking the time to listen builds awareness, demonstrates respect, builds perspective and uncovers concerns. It is often recounted people will not listen when they have not be heard.
  2. Know your audience. What is their interest, knowledge, or position on the issue to be discussed or spoken about? Talking over or under their knowledge level, failure to understand or not recognizing their beliefs, perspectives or position will be speaking to deaf ears and made up minds.
  3. Speak to the person not the situation. Always remember speaking to the person will ensure higher engagement because it is personal. You need them to participate not observe. Speak with them not about them.
  4. Speak about the concerns. Don’t make the problem about the person make it about the circumstances, situation or behavior. Offending the person shuts them down, where as asking for involvement / clarification in addressing potential solutions encourages dialogue and maintains respect.
  5. Don’t assume build the facts. Observations are fine when they are made to bring out more facts not represent the only facts. Asking a leading question is more effective that taking a position not yet determined, validated or accepted.
  6. Offer WIN / WIN. Solutions that allow both side to claim success are the ones that have the best chance at realizing lasting benefits because it give both sides a reason to uphold the agreement. As a leader you may have the power to force compliance, however, good leaders know and practice the ability to connect and build the relationships that produce engagement, partnerships, mutual fulfillment and solid sustainable results.
  7. Speak only what you believe and are passionate about. Good leaders are genuine, passionate and believable. Ask only for what’s necessary and only for things you would be willing to do given a chance in circumstances.
  8. Avoid the fork tongue -follow through. You word is your bond only when your words are followed up by the action you take. There is an old and wise saying, “Listen to the words but believe their actions.”
  9. Servant leadership is the best way to inspire / facilitate the success of others leading to the realization of the desired outcome. Now do this leader’s get at best what they ask for but no more.
  10. Achieving a connected relationship is not an event it’s an ongoing partnership born of mutual respect, trust and admiration.

Obligation or Opportunity -Your Personal Brand

 

Perhaps it is all in your perception, but, personally I feel best and perform best when I see my tasks and actions as an opportunity to create and share value. I view these as events that brand me. These are things I am most proud of.

Whereas when I find myself acting out of pure obligation I feel that I am sacrificing something or doing something that I don’t want to. In most cases, this occurs when I am doing something for someone I view as non deserving of unappreciative of my actions.  Typically I approach these actions with low energy and low personal satisfaction.

Now here’s the truth. Both situations define and brand  you. As an individual, I feel, you must find value in your actions even if the recipient is not an avid cheerleader. It’s your actions that you control not the action of others that count. If it’s good it’s good either way.

Our personal brand is the standard we aspire to. Our actions either support that standard or not and it’s all under our control. Have not defined your personal brand yet it’s not too late. Here a couple of actions to help you along.

  1. Listen to your heart, mind and soul. Define yourself in the most positive light.
  2. Identify the as is. Take an honest look at those actions / things that align to the most positive you and also those things that don’t.
  3. Determine the list of things you’ll like to change ranking them in most important and urgent to less important and less urgent.
  4. Realize you can’t get up the next morning a changed person, but, you can get up the next morning a more determined person with a plan to strive towards your most positive you.
  5. Realize you have the rest of your life ahead of you and while the past is written your future is yet to be realized and will be defined by your actions going forward.
  6. Be accountable to yourself and others. Your actions create your person brand. Evaluate the person you strive to be against the person seen by others. Be consistent and walk you image. Make a promise and consistanty meet it.
  7. Be genuine. Being true to yourself means never having to act. Chase negativity replacing it with positivity.
  8. Be accepting of you minor faults and those of others. We’re humans and not perfect.
  9. See the world through multicolored glasses. Consider the many / alternative perspectives as relevant not just your own. Don’t fall victim to your personal biases and blind spots.

Taking control of your personal brand ensures you act and behave in a manner consist with you beliefs, values and ambitions. Living a life full of opportunities and with no regrets is largely under your control and within your reach. Making obligations into opportunities to contribute can shift and energize your perception into alignment with the most positive you.

Effective Delegation –Positive Communication Breakdown

 

Stop talking and listen. The key to achieving effective delegation of work is to foster bi-directional communication where clarity can be established and details defined.

“I know you heard what I said but you didn’t understand what I meant”

This happens all the time. As the leader it is your responsibility to take measures to ensure the success of your employees. Where many leaders fall short is delegating responsibilities and not providing for the opportunity for the employee to fully understand and validate the assignment. Waiting to the deadline to find out the assignment wasn’t understood and will not be completed to desired expectations is courting failure -yours not theirs.

Message verification is critical.

I use a 3 question approach.

1) Do you and your employee understand what the successful outcome looks like? Have them tell you what they have heard. Are they comfortable with the assignment? Right here you can validate employee understanding of the desired outcome and set them up for success.

2) Can your employee or team identify their strategy, tactics or actions to achieve the desired outcome? It’s key that they can articulate their approach indicating both ownership and competency. This is an excellent question to disclose potential issues, as well as an opportunity to mentor, offer supportive suggestions to increase the likelihood of success.

3) Any issues, obstacles, concerns or assistance required is identified. This signals to your employee that you are not delegating and departing but will remain an active resource. Many initiatives will encounter unforeseen obstacles and as leaders your ongoing support and mentorship is invaluable.

Collectively these questions increase the likelihood of getting an on time and successful outcome. Additionally, I recommend scheduled progress reviews to ensure the employees success is on track. Good leaders empower, equip and support. This does not mean micromanagement so be sure to support and not direct.

Want Results? – Get Serious

The problem is obvious. Merely going through the motions of business planning won’t get the desired results, it will get the obvious ones.

Imagine you paid good money to see a professional sporting event and the participants sauntered onto the playing field looking out of shape and under prepared. They go through the motions lacking the significant passion or commitment obviously required and not really caring if they win or lose. Clearly this would not be acceptable.

Similarly, when you take the time and expense to take your “key” staff offsite you should NOT accept such behavior. It’s the leader’s role to inspire and harness the passions of their staff by providing a vision bigger than the individuals and requiring collaboration, innovation and collective purpose. It’s the senior staff’s responsibility to create a culture of accountability and commitment to one another, their employees and the company in pursuit of the desired results.  That’s how teams work and results are achieved.

 

Here are the wrong signs:

  1. You plan the event weeks in advance and people reluctantly show up unprepared.
  2. Presentations requested show up late of the requested deadline and are incomplete.
  3. Participants take every opportunity to get their phone out and keep in touch with the office.
  4. The event is all fluff and form but lacks substance.
  5. No one believes anything of value will result from the exercise. Often based on past experiences.
  6. AND I AM SURE YOU CAN ADD FIVE MORE OF YOU OWN!

 “You get what you accept so expect more and get more”

So how do you solve this –you get serious!

Let’s begin!

  • Define the purpose of the event and what success looks like.

Make it clear that the purpose of the event is to discuss the issues or initiatives required to address the critical needs of the business. Be specific in advance and charge your people to come to the meeting prepared with answer and solutions. Create the expectation that this meeting is of upmost importance and requires participants to bring their “A” game.

  • This is not a 1 -2 day event, it is the launching plan of the key business initiatives the organization will commit to successfully achieving. Defining both the strategy and execution in actionable specific steps is a must. These are not optional nice to haves and failure to achieve then is not an acceptable option, so debates and commitments made are real and achievable.
  • Check your distractions at the door. Ensure the office knows these people are unavailable for the duration of the event. They can check in after the event. If the staff can’t manage without then for the day ask why.
  • Make the event real. Deal with real issues or real opportunities. I will add several links at the conclusion of this post for those who want clarification. Walking out of that event without full understanding and commitment is not acceptable. Make your Strategy Real.
  • Strategy without execution is of no value. If you have a goal you need a realistic plan to achieving it. Poor execution is almost always the leading cause of failure of strategic plan initiatives. Most goals are achievable given focus, passion, commitment and enduring commitment. The execution plan needs to be a living document that guides and measures your progress throughout the year.
  • If at any time during the meeting inappropriate levels of attention, intensity or lack of effort or commitment / buy in is observed, stop the meeting and address the causes before proceeding. Don’t let the meeting deteriorate.

In summary, the difference in producing and executing a successful Strategic Plan is setting and maintaining the expectation that the organization will commit to, and realize the stated business initiatives by taking the actions to make it real.

Make Your Strategy Real

Look Back to move forward

 

The Business Consultant’s Dilemma – Integrity or Pay Check

There are those consultants with the philosophy that as long as the cheques cashed it’s all good.  Where and how do you draw the line in the sand with clients?

Over the last 10+ years I have provided Business Consulting to over 60 businesses and senior leaders. Prior to this I held senior management positions in Finance, Operations and Marketing throughout North America. So I have been on both sides, as a client and as the one providing the consulting services.

Let’s begin with understanding The Consultant’s Dilemma.

  • As a consultant do you attempt to put things in the best possible light telling the client what they want to hear or do you tell then what they need to hear?
  • As a consultant do you gloss over sensitive business issues to avoid making the customer upset or do you risk being fired because your efforts are viewed as disruptive / uncomfortable to the organization?
  • As a consultant do you go along with a poor / or an incomplete plan because that’s what the client wants despite you knowing you’re facilitating failure, or do you openly challenge the clients assumptions and reasoning?
  • As a consultant do you continue showing up despite knowing that your client is failing or unwilling to take agreed upon actions necessary to achieve the desired outcomes, or do you terminate the assignment and part ways?
  • As a consultant do you perform the responsibilities of others to achieve success or do you identify organization deficiencies for resolution?

These real life situations are not uncommon and represent a significant challenge. The Business Consultants knowing when to invest more time and effort to facilitate a transformation versus knowing when walking away. Its essential consultants accept that change is not made it’s accepted and acted on.

We all have a Role to Play

Leader versus Manager Roles 

The above link will take you to a post discussing the differences between the contributions of Leaders versus Managers. To me each provide equally important value to their organizations. While a Leader may make a larger contribution to strategic visioning without the dedication and competency of managers, front line supervisors and hard-working committed front line employees execution of that vision will not be realized. Strategic vision realization is everyone’s job and smart leaders whom get out of their seats and walk the floors will learn and benefit from what they see. Credit belongs to those doing the work! Great Leaders inspire great Workers deliver!

How to Turn Every Failure Into a Measure for Success

Excellent article. By far failure offers the best opportunity to learn, improve and reach new success That’s how science and life works. Building character, taking responsibility, learning to manage risk its on great! Making small bets is a great way to test out you ideas you don’t need to bet the farm.

How to Turn Every Failure Into a Measure for Success

How to Turn Every Failure Into a Measure for Success

Originally posted by http://www.twitter.com/LollyDaskal

Creating and Sustaining Urgency

As leaders we need to create a sense of urgency in our organizations to harness the collective energy of our workforce. It is important that the organization is always being enabled and challenged to improve, and indifference and apathy get rooted out. This is best accomplished through the establishing, and robust execution of key business initiatives developed during the annual planning process and the development of a  results orientated culture differentiating your business to customers and employees alike.

Leaders must inspire action not demand it.”

Employee buy-in is best accomplished through enablement and not coercion. Coercion creates rebellion / pushback and anxiety. When employees feel pressured to perform they look for ways to reduce it and this may result in low performance, withdrawal or departure. Any gains through coercion are short-lived. A good leader will challenge but will not dictate.

As a leader we must create an environment where purpose is clear and where employees are actively involved early in the process.

“Don’t tell me what to do ask me to how to achieve the desired result.”

 Engagement occurs when employees value the accomplishment of the goal and feel connected to the achievement of it through their efforts and contributions. Ensuring roadblocks and obstacles are removed is a key management support action in ensuring employee efforts are not unnecessarily hampered with unneeded bureaucracy or other business inefficiencies. As examples these two disruptors a) unclear responsibilities / ownership creates unnecessary power struggles orb) indecisive management decision-making are real de-motivators.

Keys to Building Engagement:

  1. Employees understand the goals and buy into their accomplishment.
  2. Employees feel empowered to a goal ownership level.
  3. The Plan is real and achievable.
  4. Success / rewards / recognition are distributed to those contributing to the attainment.
  5. Failure is understood and not punished.
  6. Leaders enable and don’t interfere.
  7. Trust and respect are real and not just slogans.
  8. Underperformance and inefficiencies are understood and resolved.
  9. Expectations are reasonable and sustainable.
  10. Accountability is clear for execution purposes not blame assignment.

As leaders we must step back and see things for what they are. I call this curb vision. This is looking at your business without bias and seeing things as they really are not as you would like them or accept them. Identifying where opportunity is and seizing it will ensure urgency is consistent and ongoing. Any Thoughts?

 

50 Reasons Why You Lose Customer

Customer retention matters more than chasing new ones. If your business leaks customers adding them won’t help in the long run. Finding out the reasons why they are leaving you and mitigating it is smart business.

I jotted down 50 ways you can lose them. Recognize any? Sure you could add 50 more.

Here’s my list enjoy!

1)     They got me and they have stopped looking at others.

2)     My deal is the best available.

3)     I know exactly what they want.

4)     Understanding stops at my door not at my customers.

5)     Of course they see me as critical.

6)     I don’t want to bother them so I leave them alone.

7)     I let them know I care –I send them some chocolates at Christmas.

8)     I guess my products and services are useful to them –they buy them right.

9)     Complaining customers just want too much and  I wish they would just go away.

10)  Another complaint just like the others oh well.

11)  So it was late – it got there.

12)  Jack the price they’ll pay.

13)  Customer visits are expensive and unnecessary.

14)  Lose 3 gain 3 all’s good.

15)  Competitors are a fact of life just ignore them and most go away.

16)  My revolving door sales force is just another inconvenience to me.

17)  My hard working employee Jack represents my company but the client is loyal to me right.

18)  I don’t need non-competes it makes employee think I don’t trust them.

19)  Let hire this guy he’s worked for 3 of our competitors over the last 3 years

20)  Put them on hold they won’t mind.

21)  Hey Jack at our large customer X apparently went somewhere else who knows.

22)  Jacks replacement –whoever he is will keep buying right.

23)  Anybody follow up with that pissed off customer yet.

24)  Price is only important if you’re not the best.

25)  Good service always results in price not being important.

26)  Technology is expensive and doesn’t help me.

27)  Customers usually won’t change if I don’t screw up.

28)  Tradition is important I’m in so I’m good.

29)  Value is in the eye of the beholder and my customer is color blind.

30)  Never trip a race horse -leave well enough alone.

31)  Disruptive what!

32)  Sears has been around for 50 + years.

33)  You dad used us so should you.

34)  Cadillac is a ultimate sign of success.

35)  What do the kids know anyways?

36)  Mom’s home baking why appeal to her

37)  Everyone wants us no point paying attention to our customer demographics

38)  Sales are down its seasonal I guess.

39)  Let’s jack up the price and offer a sales promotion.

40)  Value is in the eye of the beholder but I know what my customers want

41)  Let’s try this -maybe our customers might like it.

42)  Market research is for those who don’t know -we do.

43)  Sales are down let’s save some money cut marketing spending back.

44)  Some many large players – where they getting the business

45)  Amazon really?

46)  Online shopping why?

47)  “Why” Simon Sinek  -think they care?

48)  We don’t allow our employees to waste time looking at stuff online.

49)  Better to react than anticipate.

50)  Once you are on top the games over -you win.

A United Mind , Body and Spirit

This article is for anyone wanting more. Turning ambition into accomplishment requires focus and dedication but they alone without structure, often lack the substance to become reality. This article tells the story about how I set a goal to pedal my road bike 3000 km and the reasons why and how this challenge delivered so much more.

Life is what you make it. Being the person you aspire to be requires your passion, your committment and your dedication. To rise and maintain the quality of life you desire is a worthy challenge . The higher the standard, the greater the struggle, the more satisfying the achievement . The key is to understand why your goal is important to you. Goals that aren’t inspired with passion and personal meaning are difficult to attain and maintain.

I pursue my personal goals much as I would for my business goals. The crafting of a strategic plan, managing the implementation, and executing an ongoing committment to deliver the capabilities and realize the desired outcomes. While not as formal, the thinking is the same.

Achieving your personal or professional goals requires focus on mind, body and spirit collectively.

My 2017 initiative was to ride my bike 3000 kilometers. At 61 I felt I needed to attempt this challenge as an effort to challenge and re-energize myself. This was a very physical effort over a 5 month period that required determination, focus and undying desire to achieve. Challenging my body required harnessing the power of mind and spirit.

I felt it was such an important journey because it was a goal that entailed commitment over a five month period. It required me to invest and maintain a disciplined schedule. Because of the physicality of the goal there was a need to get in the mindset that I could do this and realize this was so much more important than the ride itself. I steeled myself against the body strains and pains, the scorching summer heat, the incessant insects and their bites, and the mental challenge not to succumb to the long rides / steep hills. The spiritual growth of achieving this new challenge had meaning in that it reconfirmed my core belief that given time and commitment almost anything is possible. In addition, enjoying the quiet solitude of being in nature and experiencing it’s awesome beauty was spiritually uplifting.

As with most new endeavors, doing it poorly until you get better meant my initial rides were short and challenging. As I continued I learned to do things better like how to pedal for distance. My early rides were around 20 km but gradually increased to 50 and 70+ kms rides. This also reminded me that I needed to pace my professional initiatives to perform better for longer as well. My first rides were short so the early progress was disappointing but I stayed committed. My emotions and personal will to achieve my goals, along with the tremendous sense of accomplishment kept me committed. This also transferred into my professional work. Things I knew I needed to get accomplished, but were not done timely due to procrastination, were now being completed.

While I realize that this accomplishment may be beyond other’s capabilities due to physical demands, interest or time constraints, and may be far beneath the accomplishments of others, it was a personal challenge appropriate to me. It is my attempt here to emphasize, to myself and others still reading, that the benefits and connectivity of mind, body and spirit is important and crucial. It truly helped me to get back in touch with myself and I sincerely hope you’ll consider these benefits as well.

As you can see below I did reach my goal just as the weather deteriorated to less desirable riding conditions here in Calgary. This was a personal victory along my path of self discovery and growth, a life long journey. I would also like to mention that while it is me pushing the pedals, I have a lot of support by those around me in my quest. My wife encourages me and allows me the time to pursue this and other initiatives. It is so incredible how others respect and encourage you when you make the goal public. Perhaps the whole humanity of helping others is the foundation of helping one’s self.

I am including brief lessons learned below…

Lessons Learned

  1. You must believe in yourself before you can turn your ambitions into accomplishments.
  2. It’s important to understand and resolve any obstacles to your success. Avoiding these is an invitation for a future occurence.
  3. Even though you may not be up for the ride you need to make it because consistency and self-discipline are essential components to success
  4. Measurement is essential and it’s motivational to track your performance towards your goal.
  5. Get your team involved, you’ll need the support and they’ll be inspired by your success.
  6. Perserverance is very important on the hill climbs, which are perhaps the biggest challenge. It would be easy to give in and stop, but these are must win battles that test your resolve and validate your passion and purpose.
  7. Never settle. Today’s accomplishments are tomorrow’s baseline.

 

Change is going to do you good! If?

Change management is indeed messy and often frustrating, but is an unavoidable reality. At some level people want it, need it, and perhaps desire it if only they could take a pill to make it happen.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in making change initiatives successful is accepting the reality of the situation by both the change facilitator and the leadership team. Perhaps the best way, my preferred approach, is to build awareness of the “current state”. I believe you must look back before attempting to go forward.

Looking backwards into what has worked and what hasn’t, in the recent past initiatives, is so revealing and builds an understanding of the organizations strengths and opportunities. I am not talking about the traditional SWOT analysis, which will come forward as the process evolves, I am referring to the debriefing of the prior attempts and identifying what lessons have been learned or need to be learned and identifying the true capability for change in the organization.

Building this awareness is necessary for the organization to accept responsibility and accountability. It’s pure insanity to repeat the same processes until the known causes of failure are understood and mitigated. Change involves making tough decisions about people, processes and purpose.

Every organization is unique and by understanding their capabilities, commitment and discipline levels, the change facilitator and leadership team can build a realistic path forward. And yes the change facilitator cannot be positioned as the champion but merely as the resource of best practices.

Strategy –Finding Your Place

Without a winning strategy your journey has no destination and success would be an accident –they do happen but are unlikely.

At the foundation of strategy is finding a need for a good or service that is either solving a problem or creating a benefit that customers want and will pay enough for you to generate a profit.

Understanding a market by the fundaments is an important first step.

There are 4 questions:

  1. What is the Market?
  2. Why does the Market exist?
  3. Who are the Leaders?
  4. How will you carve out you niche?

What is the market answers the question of what is being provided to meet a need of consumers of such value that there is a demand. For instance farmers grow the food that people must have unless they grow it themselves or restaurants are a market that serves prepared food. Both meet a defined need.

Why the Market exists is about understanding why the need exists and how that need is addressed. Farmers are needed because in much of today’s society people don’t grow their own food. Restaurants exist to serve people that can’t or don’t want to buy food and prepare it for a variety of reason.

 

Who are the leaders is about understanding how the market is currently being serviced by the major players of each definitive market segment. This is understanding who, currently, are the major participants such as Kroger, WalMart or McDonalds. These players are market leaders in their respective category. There is great diversity on market segments, how providers service specific consumer groups, and who owns consumer mindshare within each category.

And finally how will you position your product or service to capture enough business to be successful by defining a unique offering and hopefully defendable position. By understanding the why the market exists the provider can position to meet the needs of specific consumer preferences. You don’t need to be the biggest to own a segment but, you have to be unique enough to carve out your dominance and meet your segments consumer’s preferences. For instance, Trader Joes does not compete with Kroger for selection or price but instead attracts and serves  a specific customer group.

While the questions are simple the answers can be very complex and challenging. Successfully understanding the questions is essential to the crafting of the winning strategy for your organization. Strategy is about making informed choices and commitments that must concisely define your organization’s vision before the execution can be undertaken to successful achieve the strategy. Yes there is order in the universe.

Strategic Plan -Implementation Challenges

One of the biggest challenges that organizations face is finding the time to implement the major initiatives that were developed during the planning process. In many cases the amount of time and effort required to put the vision into practice is under estimated and beyond realistic given the demands already on your key resources. As a result critical business initiatives will go uncompleted and the gain unrealized.

“Almost anything can be accomplished given the time and resources required to implement”

In my experience organizations put 90% of the effort into strategy creation and the remaining 10% into the implementation plan. This kind of “figure it out on the fly” thinking places a huge burden on already busy key resources to find the time after the fact to develop implementation plans. Spending the time on implementation isn’t near as exciting as coming up with ideas but it is every bit as important. In practice the breakdown should be more 50 -50.

Here are some best practices for your consideration:

  1. Spend the appropriate time on developing a realistic implementation plan defining the who, what, and when details using SMART objectives format. In reality the plan is a series of projects and should be run like projects.
  2. Prioritize and synchronize business initiatives. I recommend using a reverse engineering process to plan out the appropriate order that the initiatives should be addressed. Creating a roadmap and breaking the initiatives into 90 day time buckets will help keep the plan active and on schedule. Formal reviews maintain accountability and plan status. Every organization is different so the speed of change should fit with the circumstances of your business.
  3. Take a hard look at the time and resources required. If you need a skill or technology to accomplish an objective that you either don’t have or is not available plan how this roadblock will be overcome before commiting.
  4. Consider dedicating a resource to managing the overall plan. Having someone with the responsibility to oversee the plan will ensure focus and any issue or obstacles get immediate attention and resolution.
  5. Identify time spent on lesser priority projects than can be reallocated to the more urgent business requirements. Every plan should have a STOP list.
  6. Your plan should have as an objective on improving operational efficiency and error reduction. This is an ongoing initiative that deserves continuous focus.

In the diagram below I have identified the four ways time is spent in organizations.Planning is time spent developing policies and practices. Execution is performing those policies and practices. Fire Fighting is time spent correcting errors that have occurred because policies and practices were either not performed correctly or are not defined. Crisis is time spent by managerial level resources to fix major customer impacting or costly operational errors.

Look Backwards to Learn How to Move Forward -Learn From or Repeat Your History

Leaders must understand their organizations capabilities both good and bad. This assessment is crucial to the success of any change initiative. The best way to do this is to examine the past history of their organization’s ability to plan and execute.

“Leaders who use the let’s try it again approach expecting to achieve a different more positive result are true optimists but poor leaders.”

I like to say anything is possible and made more likely through proper planning and solid execution. Realism begins with a true understanding of the gap between the present state and the desired future state, specifically, what is the required time, talent and tools / processes to bridge the gap.

Change requires critical thinking and involves hard choices. Leaders must understand that resources are limited and the organizations ability to change will be limited by the choices of what needs to start, be continued or stopped. Truth is you can not keep doing the same things and expect change to successfully occur.

“Ambition will not become accomplishment unless you address the organizations shortfalls and mitigate them.”

While I firmly believe success belongs to those doing the work and short comings belong to the leader the successful leader must determine the way forward. It is the responsibility of the leadership to determine and address the performance gaps.

“Leadership involves hard choices and the responsibility to successfully sell them to the organization”

The organization that points fingers to avoid accountability will fail. Specifically when management blames the workers and the employees blame management accountability is ambiguous and non-existent. Leadership must have the hard conversations and forge mutual ownership of problem solving with the employees to understand and address the performance gap.

For employee engagement to occur two questions have to be asked and answered. First, what is in it for the employee to accept the change and secondly, what is the employee expected to do. It is with this clarity that leadership can sell the needed changes.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-strategic-plans-dont-succeed-execution-readiness-howell/